We started Tropical Wholefoods in Uganda in the early 1990s. "We" being me, Kate Sebag and my partner Adam Brett. We were both working in Uganda at the time. We wanted to help Ugandan farmers sell their fruits at good prices in European Markets.
Solar fruit drying seemed the answer. Its an affordable technology, uses only renewable energy (the sun), adds value, extends shelf life, and makes fruits more transportable, retaining waste at the point where it is grown. Fruits are sun dried when fresh and fully ripe so capturing flavour - and with our solar drying systems, no preservatives or sugars are added. We set up a network of farmer suppliers with Fruits of the Nile and soon we were importing our first sun dried bananas and pineapples from farmers.
Our second supplier partner was Gebana Afrique in Burkina Faso who supplies us with dried mangoes and cashews. Apricots, almonds and walnuts were to come next from Mountain Fruits in Pakistan, and last but not least, raisins from Parwan Raisin Producer Cooperative in Afghanistan.
For Tropical Wholefoods, Fairtrade means more than just buying fruits at Fairtrade prices. We also give technical advice to all our suppliers. This can be us helping with factory management and design, advising on organic and Fairtrade certification, or on best agricultural practice. Staff from Africa or Asia can benefit from coming to our factory in Sunderland for in-house training. We also help our partners get development funding to grow and improve their businesses.